There were dueling takes from the guys calling the defense and the offense for USC after Wednesday's full-pads practice that had Justin Wilcox and Steve Sarkisian still looking back at the Saturday loss at Boston College.
"It starts with me . . . I've got to do a better job," Wilcox said after his defense allowed a team that couldn't throw the ball 481 yards on the ground, averaging 8.4 yards a carry on 54 rushes.
Sark meanwhile, after accepting responsibility in the postgame, in Sunday night's conference call and after Tuesday's practice for sticking with the run too long on a night when USC averaged a mere 0.7 yards a try on 29 carries, was having none of the talk that so plagued Lane Kiffin about a head coach insisting on calling his own plays on offense.
He'll keep doing it the way he has his six years as a college head coach: "Without a doubt," Sark said. After all, "I've had worse games than scoring 31 points."
So even though "the first thing" he'll do as a head coach "win, lose or draw . . . is look at myself first . . . there's always five or 10 calls" that a coach will want to look back at and maybe second-guess himself, Sark said.
What he won't second-guess is his "firm belief in my capability . . . as a play-caller and a head coach."
Is he perfect yet? He's still working at it, Sark said, but "I'm much more comfortable doing it than I was six years ago."
There wasn't much of a comfort level on the defensive side, Wilcox said on the first opportunity media have had to catch up with him since Saturday. "At times during the game, we were fine," he said. "At times we were pressed and tried to do too much."
In the first two games, Wilcox said just lining up properly and getting the calls right hadn't been a problem. But with BC giving USC several different option looks, in both the veer and the read, the response wasn't good.
"That's on me," Wilcox said. "Whether we had too much [defense] in . . . we started to press." And that made things worse, that indecision on who was responsible for what when Eagle quarterback Tyler Murphy was heading toward them with the ball in his hands.
But there was also this. Even when they did get the communication and the lineup right, "we had to get the guy on the ground," Wilcox said.
All in all, not so good a defensive trifecta when you're having trouble lining up, communicating the call and tackling, you could be in for a long night -- as the Trojans were. Sark's 31 points weren't enough on a night like Saturday.
Hayes Pullard wasn't having any of that "blame the coaches" talk. "I've heard plenty of coaches say that," said defensive captain Pullard, who could play ony the second half at BC after having been ejected in the second half at Stanford for targeting.
"I thought we did everything right during the week . . . but coaches coach, players play," Pullard said. "We sure didn't execute the plays the coaches gave us . . . We have to focus on our preparation . . . when you have the quarterback, you have the quarterback . . . we have got to trust one another and communicate better."
Wednesday's full-pads practice continued the trend of going back to the beginning of August with lots of plays, a fast tempo, a three-deep team rotation in 11 on 11 and the return of freshman Ajene Harris to the slot with Nelson Agholor going back outside again, Sark said. Also returning to run a great deal of offense from his Scout team duties was freshman quarterback Jalen Greene.
But the player of the day, Sark said, was freshman Adoree Jackson, who on one series on defense at corner created three turnovers with two fumbles forced and an athletic interception against Cody Kessler.
Thursday morning's practice will be the last we'll see this team until Tuesday's workout although they will return to football work, just not the field, on Monday after three weekend days off to start to get ready for Oregon State next Saturday night (7:30, ESPN) at the Coliseum.
Healthwise, the "extended rehab" crew remained pretty much the same with Leonard Williams, Tre Madden, Randall Telfer leaving early and not in pads and Juju Smith leaving just a bit later in pads . . . also there was an appearance for a while of Greg Townsend Jr. in helmet and practice gear, no shoulder pads, after his bout with chicken pox.
For a wrapup of Wednesday morning's practice, check out WEDNESDAY BYE WEEK GHOST NOTES.You can follow me on Twitter at @dweber3440 or email me at email@example.com.